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-by Ernie Diaz
You know, just because we’re a Chinese culture website doesn’t mean we look at all Chinese culture as wine and roses. And were Chinese culture embodied in a person, why we’d stroll right up to that person, poke a finger in his chest, and demand, “Hey, you got a serious record for abusing women, pal.” Then we’d run like hell while he started summoning all his buddies by cell phone.
Not that we’d suggest women have it as easy as men anywhere else, unless they’re divorcing basketball players in America. But no other country is going on about “5,000 years” and “ancient culture”. Sorry, Koreans are too. Memo to Korea: black eyes are not badges of love.
See, tradition comes not from spontaneous action, but codified reactions. So how in the world could women act that would cause men to crimp their feet in reaction? Moot point. Finland has nothing but reindeer, other than empowered females, and they’ve got the highest literacy and highest tech. People are the only resource that matter, China. Half our resources are underutilized – put it that way.
Hu Ming’s work is by no means cutting edge or one-of-a-kind, but so what? It’s titillating, and there’s a huge shortage of titillating content online. Plus, anything you can truly put yourself into has value. Would she be painting like a latter-day Georgia O’Keefe had she grown up in Finland? Oops. Equality doesn’t necessarily engender great art, does it?
Not reactionary equality, to be sure. That’s what we’ll call the Cultural Revolution that Hu Ming came of age in, a time to get even with landlords and other one-percenters. When school stopped for Hu Ming and her generation, so did her parents’ dream of her becoming a doctor, such as they were. The child loved to read, a good sign, but she only had her Little Red Book now, and made up for the lame plot with endless sketches of Mao’s portrait.
Hmmm, now what to do with an imaginative, artistic child in China circa 1970? Why, let her join the army at fifteen. No one else was hiring, so Chinese youth found themselves defending their newish country in numbers approaching those of Western youth DJ-ing and party promoting today. Ahh, progress.
And no one but reactionary capitalist roaders would argue that women serving in the armed forces was also progress, even if they got all the namby pamby jobs. Hu Ming found herself trucking around China as a projectionist first. Then Red Army brass gave her an assignment no male soldier would dishonor himself with, librarian. Great Leader Mao himself had been (assistant) librarian at Peking U, but in those days there was far too much ideology in the air to feel irony at all keenly.
Even more irony was wasted in the very idea of being a librarian in Cultural Revolution China, akin to being a Wall Street Socialist today. Book burner, now that was a growth industry. One day, several trucks full of Western books arrived at Hu Ming’s post to be incinerated, but the last load was spared, and given to Hu Ming to file away, and most definitely NOT to read.
To bright minds, curiosity will always be a stronger force than ideological fervor; thus our survival as a species is assured. Hu Ming’s bright mind devoured Tolstoy and Dickens, but nearly choked on a volume of Michelangelo’s human anatomy. Action: millennia of objectifying women,and “decadent” sexuality. Reaction: ban any sign of gender difference. Sublimate the primal urge to revolutionary passion. Hu Ming smuggled the book right back to her bunk and began copying the drawings.
Those shiny, rounded Michelangelo proportions are very evident in Hu Ming’s work. True, all those boobs and heinies are far too lovingly rendered for the pictures to attire themselves in too many layers of meaning. An enterprising comics publisher, for example, would no doubt recognize in Hu Ming a cash cow. That’s a compliment: considering the size and scope of the comics industry today.
In the Information Age, where we’re all infantilized by our profusion of choices and lack of consequences, body-worship is not simply outgrown and discarded. There’s no secret as to why, of all the millions of animated heroes and the billions who admire them, not a one who isn’t drawn as a paradigm of sexual vigor.
The pipsqueak reacts to bullying by sending away for a Charles Atlas course. The insecure teen reacts to the impossible standards of beauty given her with bulimia. Hu Ming was moved from hospital library to the burn ward. Her reaction to deformed limbs, withered skin, not to mention two decades in a sexless society, fill out canvases far more nicely than they would a printed page. As for the bursting army uniforms and red star caps – it’ s not kink, folks. Hu Ming was there; if that’s what she saw, that’s what she saw.